Notes and Editorial Reviews
Giancarlo Menotti is quintessentially a theater composer. 'Martin's Lie,' like the more famous 'Amahl and the Night Visitors,' is a television commission that is now more frequently performed as a church opera. Telling the story of Martin, a young boy who lives in a church orphanage, the opera illuminates Menotti's moral, that love transcends the sin of a small lie.
A fleeing heretic pleads with Martin to hide him, and in the process convinces the child he is the boy's father. During the subsequent action, Martin withstands appeals to fear (the sheriff) and piety (the priest), and dies without revealing the hiding place of the stranger. The work ends with the assembled cast praying for Martin's soul. The effect is simple, moving, and, typical of Menotti, very direct. Alan Opie gives an especially moving performance as the fleeing heretic, but the all British cast does very well by Menotti.
The two groups of songs nicely illustrate the differences in Menotti's setting of his two principal languages (English and Italian). The Italian set, written for Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, is particularly well performed. This is an important example of Menotti's work other than the often-recorded 'Amahl' or 'The Medium.'